As part of what we can only assume is preparation for some very intense mad scientist Halloween costumes, IBM has announced a prototype computer that is both powered and cooled by an electrolyte liquid.
IBM, like everyone, is pretty taken with the capacity and energy efficiency of the human brain and wants to try to replicate it. Of course the brain is skull-sized and only uses 20 watts of energy per day, so it’s a high bar to try to match, but IBM is hoping that its new “redox flow” system will bring it closer. Two IBM researchers, Patrick Ruch and Bruno Michel, demoed the prototype last week at IBM’s Zurich lab.
The “electronic blood” is pumped through the computer and carries power as it pulls heat. The goal is to house a one petaflop computer (currently the size of half a soccer field) in something that will fit on a desk by 2060.
Bruno Michel explained:
We want to fit a supercomputer inside a sugar cube. To do that, we need a paradigm shift in electronics — we need to be motivated by our brain. The human brain is 10,000 times more dense and efficient than any computer today.
To get a sense of this disparity, the BBC notes that when Watson battled Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter, each man used less than 20 watts of energy, while Watson used 85,000 watts. IBM’s research is obviously a long way from delivering implementable results for industry or personal computing, but as more and more research is focused on brain-like computing there may be strides toward making computer guts look more like human guts. [BBC]